Leadership in Innovation

The “Innovation Economy” Conference – Student Report

Bastiaan Scheutjens
Student Report
The Wall Street Journal Europe Future Leadership Institute* invited RSM student Bastiaan Scheutjens (22) to write down his experience at “The Innovation Economy” conference (15 April 2009).
(*Between 2007 and 2011 the Institute carried temporarily the name ‘The Wall Street Journal Future Leadership Institute”)

The “Innovation Economy” Conference – A Valuable Conference?

What should a third-year student of the Rotterdam School of Management do at a conference full of professionals from the world of innovation? The only answer I can think of is to listen and to make notes.

On the eve of the European elections, the innovation economy conference, which was hosted by Science|Business, provided a platform for people ranging from top-executives to (European) policy makers that are involved with innovation every single day of the week. As this is normally not an event intended for students, this was an excellent opportunity to learn about innovation from the practitioners in a unique manner rather than from a book. Learning directly, makes sure that you know what the actual problems are and how this relates to the material you learn at university.

One of the most prominent topics discussed was the dilemma of intellectual property rights: How to create an environment in which universities and companies can work together without creating conflicts about the ownership of intellectual property? On too many occasions debates on these rights prevents companies from developing successful products/processes from research done at universities or other institutes. Of course, most governments have incubator systems, where an independent organisation mediates the relation between companies on one hand and universities on the other. But how effective are they? And do they get most out of all the talent that is in their country? Michael Duncan, European Director for Open Innovation at Procter & Gamble, argues that there are few systems that really work. Furthermore, every country in Europe has a different innovation enhancing system, making it difficult for companies to pursue an innovation strategy on a European scale. This concern is shared by policy makers at the European Council, where they try to facilitate innovation for the whole of Europe. Klaus Gretschmann, Director-General Competitiveness European Council, argues that the financial stimulus packages will most definitely further expand Europe’s innovation capabilities. But is it enough? The dean of ESADE business school, Alfons Sauquet Rovira, thinks that universities should be split up into research, teaching and post-graduate institutes, in order to create an innovation environment that can compete with leading countries and universities. However, is it not precisely the combination of research, teaching and post-graduate education that fosters innovation at universities? Combining research and education at the same institute ensures there is an up-to-date curriculum addresses the problems companies have. Furthermore, it provides students with better insight in how research is done and inspires them to get more involved in the world of science. These issues show that there is still a lot to be done on the subject of innovation. As Europe is still segregated on several fundamental issues like for example the European constitution, it delays progress in the development of its innovation capabilities, increasing the chance for Europe to falling behind and losing the race in competing with the USA and the upcoming economies.

Finally, looking back on the conference, it made me realise that there is still so much more to learn, which is not always in books. Visiting conferences like this one puts your knowledge on a certain subject in a different perspective and will enable you to create a unique view. Furthermore, a university is not the only place you learn about, for example, business or life. By learning outside the confines of dreary lecture halls, you will distinguish yourself from the rest and develop new skills and insights. So like the slogan of Nike, my advice is: Just do it!

About the author

Bastiaan Scheutjens is 22 years old and a 3rd year business administration student at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University. He is an active member of study association STAR, which is, with over 5000 members, Europe’s largest study association. At the moment, he and seven of his fellow students are hard at work organizing the 23rd edition of the STAR Management Week, one of the largest student events in the Benelux. The STAR Management Week provides a platform for students to enrich their academic knowledge, further develop their skills and get in contact with renowned companies.

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